Friday, June 28, 2019

Zoonotics as Parable

Choosing the road less taken can make all the difference. (Robert Frost)
About 60 percent of all human diseases and 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, according to the researchers. Most human infections with zoonoses come from livestock, including pigs, chickens, cattle, goats, sheep and camels.” (https://www.livescience.com/21426-global-zoonoses-diseases-hotspots.html)

I don’t often venture into the medical sciences areas, mainly because my ignorance on the finer points would trip me up pretty quickly. Recent reading about the decline and near-decimation of the ancient Aztec, Mayan, Cherokee and Incan civilizations (in, particularly, Ronald Wright’s Stolen Continents) piqued my interest in zoonotics, the branch of medicine that studies the transmission of infection from animal to human. Most of us remember the near panic surrounding Hanta virus, an infection endemic—although harmless—to Deer Mice but deadly to humans not possessing an evolved immunity. We could add Aids, Avian ‘Flu, etc., etc.

Zoonoses hitchhiked to America from Europe and Asia aboard explorers’ and traders’ sailing ships in the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries. American natives hadn’t developed immunity to these hitchhikers because they didn’t exist in the New World and so populations were decimated; whole cities like Aztec Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City) were felled primarily by Zoonoses, not by a superior civilization.

The transfer of Zoonotic infection, of course, is significantly enhanced by proximity; the domestication of species has ensured that humans and a variety of animal species share common territory. As hunter-gatherers, humans would have suffered illness, but the likelihood of zoonotic virus/bacterial transmission was lessened by the infrequency of contact.

We have known since Old Testament time that improperly cooked pork can pass trichinosis from hogs to people. Although the vomiting and diarrhea result from a worm and not a virus/bacteria, the relationship between eating hogs and the possibility of contracting illness therefrom is analogous to the Zoonotic dilemma: since the agricultural revolution, we have made ourselves more and more dependent on a narrow range of domesticated plants and animals and in so doing, have exposed ourselves to a whole catalogue of hazards.

Moving from nomadic, hunting/gathering to a sedentary, agricultural lifestyle has, of course, vastly improved the availability of food but has also resulted in burgeoning populations and the clumping of humanity into villages, towns and, finally, metropolises. Smallpox once introduced into a human population became epidemic very quickly where people lived in close quarters; in the fifties, schools and churches shut down during measles, mumps, scarlet fever outbreaks, for obvious reasons.

The bigger you build your ships, the harder it is to steer them onto a new course. The history of living species being unable to adjust to changing conditions in time to avoid annihilation is epic. It’s estimated by some that the current rate of extinction of species is 10,000 times the prehistoric average, possibly up to one extinction every 5 minutes.i In historical terms, species like prairie songbirds, for instance, have been unable to adjust their food and habitat needs in order to survive the environmental changes humans have precipitated. The introduction of zoonoses to the American continents left the Aztecs, the Incas, the Mayans, the Cherokee and most other indigenous inhabitants defenseless. The surviving remnant was obviously weakened, often pock-marked by smallpox.

Human ingenuity created the current, rapid explosion of change, and this on a planet used only to the exceedingly slow adaptation of species a la Darwin’s natural selection and survival of the fittest principles. Whether or not human ingenuity is up to finding remedies for complications caused by too-rapid change will be evident if and when our history is written. With a population of 7,000,000,000+ individuals, we have created a massive challenge: “progress” has resulted in an awfully big human-species ship; climate change, super-bugs, resource depletion all represent massive, looming icebergs.

The conquest of the Americas was achieved by zoonoses and pillaging by greedy “pirates,” erroneously portrayed in our histories as courageous explorers and discoverers of lands . . . lands already settled, ironically. Their actions can be excused in part on the basis of ignorance; Henry Hudson, Christopher Columbus didn’t even know the simple remedy for scurvy, much less the devastating power of the world of microbes.

Ignorance can no longer excuse our reluctance to do what we can to lessen the effects of coming challenges or to prepare for their consequences. A three minute read is enough to “set the scene” that will be our climate iceberg.ii Unlike the aboriginal peoples of the Americas, we have the means to prevent and prepare; all we lack is the will.

Where I live, mustering the will to get serious about the future is made difficult because here on the prairies, our leadership is of the kind that insists on using the only available water to irrigate a lucrative potato patch while the house is burning. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of Moe, Kenney or Palliser would appreciate the analogy. 



Ihttp://www.theworldcounts.com/counters/degradation_and_destruction_of_ecosystems/species_extinction_facts

Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Book Recommendation

The Spanish/Christian mythology enforced militarily in Aztec country
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by historian Yuval Noah Harari will be good reading for anyone who longs to appreciate world events through the insights available from our history. Harari not only considers who and what we homo sapiens are today, but why we are what we are, do what we do. If reading Harari can’t be a complete picture of the development of nations, cultures, empires (it is, after all, brief), it can at least teach us that we routinely neglect masses of accumulated knowledge when trying to assess current trends and events.


For instance, I suspect that most of us are puzzled about why the USA would replace a mild, decent, respectful president with an anarchistic, aggressive, belligerent commander in chief. Harari shines a light on the consequences historically of similar phenomena when he discusses leadership in conflict—through the lens of history:


The ability to maintain peace at home, acquire allies abroad, and understand what goes through the minds of other people (particularly your enemies) is usually the key to victory. Hence an aggressive brute is often the worst choice to run a war. Much better is a cooperative person who knows how to appease, how to manipulate and how to see things from different perspectives. This is the stuff empire builders are made of. The militarily incompetent Augustus succeeded in establishing a stable imperial regime, achieving something that eluded both Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, who were much better generals. Both his admiring contemporaries and modern historians often attribute this feat to his virtue of clementia—mildness and clemency (p.157).


Although Harari is writing here about competencies leading to military success, the parallels to Trump’s economic warfare, his “make America great again” rhetoric echo both Caesar and previous presidents’ confusion about what constitutes greatness, and how greatness is arrived at. Exercising American “greatness” in the Middle East has cost many lives with no apparent, lasting benefit to anyone; the “shock and awe” of the 2003 invasion of Iraq predictably turned into more of a “bust and whimper.” (Further echoes of Vietnam and Korea; muscle can’t guarantee greatness, nor even success.)


The maxim that says we repeat and repeat our mistakes when we neglect our history comes easily to mind. Confusing the generation of fear with the cultivation of respect was Caesar’s mistake, was Alexander’s mistake, was Hitler’s mistake, was Stalin’s mistake, was Mussolini’s mistake, and is quite probably Trump’s big mistake. In a globalizing world, isolation and belligerence constitute a path to decline. We need only look to Putin and Kim Jong-un to recognize the futility of aggressive, fear-mongering leadership in a world dependent on cooperation in so much, including travel, communication, money exchange and trade. In a rapidly globalizing world—economically, socially, culturally—it becomes easier and easier to starve nations and peoples who choose defiant isolationism.


There’s much more in Harari, even though he’s titled it “a brief history.” His take on the differing mythologies that are able to bind enormously-large nations and confederacies together is especially revealing. A mass of people can’t become a stable, lasting culture or nation unless citizens share a basic mythology, whether that be democracy, religion, capitalism, socialism, multi-culturalism, etc. Even a corporation with thousands of workers is dependent on a mythology of purpose and rewards in order to be stable; loyalty to the common myth makes cooperation among large numbers of people possible.


Historically—according to Harari—imperialism has been a boon to our successful evolution as homo sapien species in that it absorbed any number of competing tribes into a more cooperative whole and facilitated the spread of science and peaceful governance. At the same time, imperialism’s forceful absorption of cultures and languages into a common, imposed mythology has cost millions of lives and extinguished cultural and linguistic variety. In this sense our nation, Canada, is a real-time study in the working of imperialism in that, for instance, Cree, Ojibwa, Inuit peoples who have been forcibly absorbed into the Western mythology . . . almost universally speak English now, as do Ukrainian, German, Chinese, Arab, etc. immigrants.


In short, Harari can add valuable insights into ourselves, who we are as 21st Century homo sapiens, and why we are what we are. I recommend it. Thanks to Eric and Joan for recommending it to me.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

There will come soft rains . . .

Memorial to Homo Sapiens? - Puerto Vallarta Malecon
There’s no denying: climate change and forecasts of dire effects for the planet and living things on it are front and centre in Canada’s public discourse these days. As with every prophetic pronouncement of impending doom, there are those who tear out their hair as they trumpet worst-case scenarios, and there are those who seek to maintain their happy place through denial. Between them are the quiet majority for whom the screaming, divisive rhetoric of the doom-sayers and denialists just adds another worry to an already-worrisome life, like a newly-erupting boil on the behind when your arthritis is acting up . . . again.

As far as I can tell, we’re pretty much agreed that flooding and wildfires are increasing noticeably and that that’s really, really bad for people who live in the most vulnerable parts of the country. What we haven’t determined to anyone’s satisfaction is whether or not the human ingenuity and innovation that contributed to the phenomenon of climate change can be redirected to slow it down enough to make a difference. Neither have we taken seriously the “What will we do about it?” question or put another way, “However will we pay for steps to protect vulnerable life on the planet in the future?”

Right now, we’re being urged to pick sides with positions that are nonsensical; a few zingers come to mind:

  1. A small but escalating carbon tax is the most effective and cost-efficient way to reduce corporate and individual use of fossil fuels.” This is nonsense on two levels: by the time we reach the point of effectiveness of such a tax the matter will have become moot. (Some projections have said that the signs of human extinction will be obvious already in a decade or two.) Much more than a carbon tax must be enacted if Canada is to make a reasonable, proportional contribution to the greenhouse gas solution.
  2. Canada’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions world-wide is so minuscule that the imposition of a carbon tax is laughable.” This is nonsense on two levels: given that climate change’s effects will be global, any and every effort including the smallest contributes to the solution. Furthermore, Canada needs to model innovative options in order to have influence on laggard nations as the problem’s effects escalate.
  3. Climate fluctuations are normal on planet earth; there have been ice ages and ice-melting ages and the current global warming is just one of these fluctuations.” Global warming ended the last ice age around 12,000 B.C. The estimated world population in 10,000 B.C. was 4 million, so there was plenty of room on the planet for migrating to survivable climes. With a population exceeding 7 billion (or 7,000 million+), a similar option just doesn’t exist.
  4. Humanity has always been able to adjust to change and as it becomes necessary, we will adjust to global warming when we have to.” Historically, it’s been the wealthy and the powerful that have had the means to adjust to major catastrophe. Trump’s “We’ll build a wall,” Hadrian’s Wall, the Great Wall of China, the nuclear-arms race etc., are and were preparations for ensuring that the already-privileged would survive and prosper, even if that meant allowing (or requiring) the less-fortunate masses to starve in the dark.
  5. It’s all in God’s hands; God will save us.” That the God of Israel did not save his people from the holocaust or Haiti from the 2010 earthquake or millions of people from ongoing warfare globally etc. should teach us that whatever God’s activities in creation might be, rescuing people from their preventable follies—even from unpreventable natural disaster or human savagery—is not one of them.

The most troubling thought in all this comes from our abysmal record of denial and division where common judgment and joint action are called for. Every effort to unite us is countered by a political tribalism that effectively kills forward motion. Perhaps this trait is woven into our DNA so that we have no choice but to be competitive, even when cooperation is mandatory for our very survival.

The most pessimistic among us have concluded that the train has already left the station, or more aptly, that the canoe has already gone over the waterfall. Surely that doesn’t get us any closer to what’s to be done. For the optimistic rest-of-us, crossing our fingers and waiting to see what develops just won’t be enough, I’m afraid. 

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone. - Sara Teasdale


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The lion, the lamb and cultural appropriation

In Rita's Garden on an Autumn Day 

I’m not sure how we got to the subject of cultural appropriation, but we did. Naturally, it led to questions concerning the meaning of free speech with the controversies currently swirling around what opinions one can express without the wrath of the political correctness police descending like holy fire.

I’m not comfortable with that absurd Chief Wahoo logo nor with the Indians name of the Cleveland American League baseball team. It didn’t bother me as a young man so I have to remind myself that the debate about cultural appropriation is a moving phenomenon; what was OK once ain’t OK no more! (I suspect that sports teams’ appropriation of Indigenous-culture imagery and naming was never for any other reason than to associate teams with the mostly-imagined, legendary fierceness and fiery battle skill in the “braves” Hollywood helped to create. Not a put-down, in other words. As far as I know, the name, Cleveland Anabaptists, wasn’t even considered.)

But I remember being appalled at Shakespeare’s creation of Shylock, a Jewish money-lender in The Merchant of Venice who projects every anti-Semitic stereotype that ever existed. I have to wonder if the Lone Ranger’s side-kick, Tonto, influenced my early childhood conception of the Indigenous of America. In imagination, I suspect, I always wanted to be the Lone Ranger . . . with a Tonto as servant. In 1851, Stephen Foster wrote a song called Swanee River including the line, “Oh darkies, how my heart grows weary/Far from the old folks at home. Can a choir still sing this song to an inter-racial audience without changing darkies to—perhaps—brothers?

If I’m Jewish and I express indignation at the portrayal of a fellow Jew as a despicable, grasping excuse-for-a-human-being, am I being “over-sensitive?” If I’d been aboriginal and Tonto’s portrayal nauseated me, would you have been justified in telling me to “just get over it already?” Or if I was born with a black face and I saw white faces blackened in a comic vaudevillian sketch, would I have reason to be indignant?”

Two things: Surely the test of whether a culture, an ethnicity, a race or faith is being exploited for attention or gain rests in the judgment of the one supposedly being exploited. What price do blond women eventually have to pay for the gags and jokes that portray them as having traded their intelligence for sexual availability? How often and how much can a majority culture appropriate ancient symbols and artifacts of indigenous faith and culture for decoration, before they become meaningless for the indigenous people themselves?

And second: If our writing, our art, our conversation should begin to lean again on particularly-negative stereotypes of others in order to attract attention or produce gain, how lacking in imagination would we have had to become? Identifiable idiosyncrasies, strengths, weaknesses, perversions, etc. cut across the human race; it’s not necessary to invoke our prejudices to write or talk about any of them.

The invoking of the political correctness mentality, the sensitivity about cultural/ethnic appropriation, the debate about the margins of free speech are together signs that there lives among us a growing hunger for the reconciliation of humanity—to each other and to the universe that is our home. That there should be a backlash against these impulses is to be expected; the politics of hate all around us a manifestation of this reaction. In the peaceable kingdom that Christ envisioned, people don’t use their tongues as swords, they protect one another from offense and harm, they’ve traded their militancy for gentleness, their judgment for mercy, their arrogance for humility, their greed for generosity.

We long to be born anew . . . and mostly don’t know it. The lamb and the lion long to sleep together. (That’s a metaphor; real lions long to eat tender lambs. I myself prefer them with mint jelly and rosemary. Inter-species appropriation. I’m not proud of my repeated culinary sinning.)

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Guadalajara after the Conquest of the Aztecs

Guadalajara: Aztec symbols, the flame that doesn't consume and the Quetzalcoatl, the serpent bird.


Note: A correction to my last travelogue post where I said Guadalajara had 10 million residents. I’m now told it’s closer to 5 million. My apologies to the 5 million whom I led to believe were Guadalajarians and now discover they’re not . . . or worse yet, that they may not even exist.

“Guadalajara,” he said, “is a name imported from Spain and is Arabic, dating back to the Moorish rule of Spain. It means ‘stony river.’” We are six in the van plus our driver/interpreter: two male couples and Agnes and me, and we’re a jolly, curious bunch with non-stop banter from Ajijic to Guadalajara and back. “Airrrmahn” (Herman) is both a competent, careful driver and a consummate teacher; before the day is over we’ll have a much better grasp of the history of both Mexico and Jalisco province—at least if we remember to listen between bouts of picture-snapping.

Our first destination in this sprawling city in the highlands is downtown Guadalajara. In short, it’s magnificent in its ‘Catholic’ beauty. No fewer than 5 cathedrals attest to the Franciscan and Augustinian presence in the city at its establishment—he says—in 1542. Guadalajara was actually relocated at that time, the present site chosen because of the availability of fresh water and for strategic reasons; the wars of conquest, the subjugation of the indigenous population was still very much a consideration.

Central Guadalajara has been reworked considerably in the last half century. The result is a centre including no fewer than five large plazas of fountains, statuary and, of course, cathedrals. The plazas are arranged in the form of a cross, the largest, longest being the trunk of the cross and smaller ones being the arms and the top of the cross with the central, Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady at the juncture of the cross’s arms. The interior of this cathedral has to be seen to be appreciated; a second-rate depiction can be had here.

We visited the vaults beneath the cathedral where bishops and cardinals of Guadalajara rest. The most recent was buried here in the 1990s, possibly caught in the crossfire between drug cartels or else assassinated by them; autopsies showed that he died in his car from shots fired at close range. It reminded us of the violence that accompanies the drug trade around the world and definitely here in Mexico. The north shore communities of Lake Chapala are not exceptions in this case, the Guadalajara Reporter tells us; a shootout happened in Jocotepec just down the road a few days ago. One man was killed and a woman seriously injured.

And then there was the governor’s palace and the old congress hall and the murals depicting Mexico’s history and a wonderful pottery museum and finally, an all female Mariachi band performance and a bowl of Mexican soup that Herman assured me would be only poquito spicy, but which went down like varnish remover . . . with flavour!

We ended the day at Cosinart Restaurant in Ajijic, I had a very good Indian Chicken Curry and a glass of red wine.

Just checked my step counter . . . seeing Guadalajara took about 7 km of walking. Should have stopped at one of the leather shops (of which there are many; Guadalajara is known for its pottery and leather goods) and bought a pair of hand crafted shoes for Cdn $30 or so.

A side-note. Mexicans don’t generally wear shorts and sandals. So if you don’t want to stand out as a tourist, jeans and oxfords or sneakers are a better bet. Police and military wear black top to toe with heavy boots plus guns and radios strapped all over them; don’t know how they survive May, for instance when, I’m told, 40 C isn’t uncommon.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Tequila: (tequila is made in Tequila!)


Amante, musico y tequila. Ole!  Y si, un gallo Tambien!


It’s curious how one’s perception on arriving as a visitor at a place that is home for others . . . and probably has been for centuries . . . can be that the people and place were given birth when one (this one, at least) landed. (That may be the worst sentence I’ve ever written.) I think it’s a case of inflated self-importance: this store opened just for me; this restaurant wouldn’t exist except in anticipation of me; this town has only ever been awaiting my arrival; I’ve never been in this museum before so it must be new.


My home has never been a tourist destination but I’m thinking if visitors speaking little English streamed through Rosthern year-round, they’d begin to look alike and my courtesies would probably be in the interest of their spending more than in them personally. And if they stayed for a week—exploring all the sights and amenities, trying every restaurant—forgetting them would be an exercise of minutes. (Mind you, testing every restaurant in Rosthern takes five days only.)

I could imagine that a weary waiter in a hot and crowded restaurant is not nearly as happy to see me come in as I might hopefully expect. “Here comes another pain-in-the-ass tourist with stupid questions and impossible demands spoken in broken Spanglish. Whoopeeo dinga!” Actually, courtesy and friendliness characterizes best the people of Mexico who’ve waited on us.

An increasing number of national and local economies rely on tourism these days. Tourists bring in money, often into communities left impoverished by global “progress” including technologies that displace jobs. But it surely must be a Faustian bargain; to be a tourist-friendly town where you were once a traditional community has meant monumental cultural change; how could it not? Churches remain sparsely-attended places of worship, but become tourist attractions as well; menus in restaurants are in a language amenable to visitors; children mix into the melee of strangers and pick up who-knows-what habits (not excluding the art of begging and fawning for handouts, we’ve observed in some places); locals compete for craft and food stall sales. And possibly the most telling: tourism and expat settlement drive up the prices of things, and visitors--not locals--become the demographic for which business caters, for which municipal planning often bends both money and attention. 

In the plaza in Tequila, men with “informaciรณn turistica” on their shirts walk about to help visitors find the sites they’ve come to see. Up and down the hills of Tequila, meanwhile, the blue-green fields of Agave signal that others must toil under the hot sun to support the export industry that now pays for their living. Agave here produces nothing nutritional, just juice for tequila, fiber for construction and fertilizer for the next crop of the same.

We’re told the town of Tequila was founded in ca. 1525; that’s only two decades and a bit after Columbus “discovered” the “New World.” Rosthern was founded—kind of—in 1893 at which time Tequila as a town already had about 270 years of community behind it. In both cases, the area had likely been inhabited for ten or more thousand years: by the Cree in Rosthern’s case, by Aztecs in Tequila’s.

I had a bowl of Sopa Azteca in the Plaza in Tequila with no illusions that the name was more than cultural appropriation for the tourist trade. It was very good soup.

Downtown Tequila is a visual feast.

We tasted a sample of a smooth, flavoured tequila not unlike Bailey’s Irish Cream. Wonderful. I bought a small bottle of it: 180 pesos; $10 Cdn.

The Guadalajara Freeway loop circles 3/4 of the city of some 10 million. It’s a state-of-the-art highway with only light traffic; we paid $30 in tolls driving from Ajijic to Tequila and back. Locals, we conjectured, would travel on free roads. Speed limit on the freeway: 110. Same as the Louis Riel Trail.

In the Tequila Museum we wandered into the archive room where an older man (Manuel) and a college-age companion were eager to show us the assemblage of old documents chronicling the history of Tequila and tequila. Our daughter’s Spanish is better than ours, and so the conversation limped along with general understanding. What we gathered is that a mass of letters, documents, declarations have been collected with great effort from all over the world and are being meticulously catalogued and preserved here in this small room. My archive/history juices flowed with an envy equal to the glow in these archivists’ eyes as they revealed their monumental achievement.

Friday, we take a tour introducing us to historic Guadalajara.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Carved Christ, Tequila and Sun

A crucifix with a difference
Long, leisurely mornings in a foreign country provide a good time for reading, and what better reading would there be when you’re up under a Mexican morning sun than the history of Mexico. I did some of that this morning, and now I know enough—probably—to get myself into trouble in any serious argument. 

A few gleanings from Wikipedia and similar sites seem indisputable:
  • Mexico’s history has been fraught with turmoil, colonial exploitation, genocide, civil wars and near-miraculous economic achievements.
  • It’s history has significant relevance for today, particularly as regards Mexico-USA relations. The uniqueness of the Mexico-USA border and the current debate about its defense can’t really be understood without reference to several hundred years of past interactions.
  • Much of what is southwestern USA was Mexico until the Spanish-American war.
  • The border loosened substantially during the World Wars when Mexican workers were welcomed to take work places vacated by American men serving in the military.
  • Around forty-million persons living in the USA are Mexican or Mexican-American.
  • Nearly a million US expats live in Mexico.

One site detailed the immigration into Mexico over the last few centuries, mentioning in passing that some enclaves of alien settlement exist as un-assimilated communities—including Mennonites. Also that in certain areas, indigenous nations have persisted as cultural, traditional communities but the vast majority of the population falls into the Mestizo category, having mixed ancestry and speaking Spanish as the first language. The website opined that the trend for a long time has been to homogenize the population, and I imagine that the obliteration of ethnicity and languages would therefor be part of that trajectory. (I was thinking Canada as I read this; I can’t verify the truth of it in Mexico’s case.)

We took the bus from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara and were picked up at the terminal in Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara. The trip takes you from the seaside and up on a winding course into the highlands of Jalisco State. The route passes through the agave-growing, red earth region around the city of Tequila, where the juice of the agave is turned into—you guessed it—tequila. (We naively thought we were passing through pineapple fields until we were straightened out on that account.) 

The hills and valleys of Jalisco are brown and lifeless right now, except for the agave fields; it’s the dry season and as we passed pastures with cattle and no sign of feeding facilities, I thought of bovines suffering through winters in Canada and on dry pastures in Mexico. 


Here Comes Tequila
Perhaps the ground-travel observations from a bus window would have to go under the category of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” but I felt as sorry for the horses and cattle scrounging to find food through a hot, dry season as I do for animals suffering -30 days in Saskatchewan. We’ve been here a week; I said I’d like to be a TV meteorologist here because the forecast—high 30, low 15, calm and sunny—would apply daily. Not really any good reason to go to work on a regular basis; tape the forecast and show it all the time, eh?

Chapala-Ajijic (pronounced ah-hee'-heeq') has become home to many retired Canadians. We met some of them in church and they fill some restaurants in the evenings. Worship leader Dave at the Lakeside Community Fellowship moved here from Vancouver area; his wife grew up in Melfort, Saskatchewan. Filmmaker John Friesen from Manitoba has just completed a feature film focused on US/Mexican relations at the personal level—Pat y Paco; we’re having coffee this afternoon.

The influence—positive and negative—of expats and tourism on local economies and cultures has been a topic on which our daughter and son-in-law have been able to “go to school” in Panama and now in Mexico. Maybe Friesen should do another film about that.

An “expat” Canadian quipped yesterday about the traffic congestion, “Darned gringos!”

I said, “Don’t worry, Mexico is gonna build a wall; US and Canada are gonna pay for it!”